Thursday, May 27, 2010

Technology as Perpetuating the Buffered Self?

Well, it's been a hell of a long time since i've done this. this has been a long year with many transitions moving from flagstaff, az to st. paul, mn. one of the reasons for not writing is that i have been swamped with papers and getting into the new grove of writing/reading phd materials. it has been a rich year through trinitarian theology, theological hermeneutics, including philosophical hermeneutics, and organizational leadership developments over the past 100 years. another reason beyond all this busy work where i've been hibernating is just becoming cynical about this social technology, part of it being that i wonder how much of it actually perpetuates the buffered self that charles taylor speaks about in his book a secular age.

charles taylor takes a detailed look at the sources of the self, the origins and consequences of the development of the self through modernity. In chapter seven, “The Impersonal Order,” he suggests that the mechanized world has involved a withdrawl. Descartes, he offers, is responsible for taking this withdrawl to the point of disconnection between the location of where meaning is constituted in the mind apart from one’s existence as an embodied agent. He says that what has resulted from these Cartesian influences is that the real ontological center of experience has shifted to the mind, even as experiences themselves are caused in other areas of the body. For example the notion of taste and the experiences that occur in the senses in the body are understood to be constituted first in the mind, where we think that is the case. Taylor calls the process by which the self perpetuates this gap “disengagement.” This disengagement comes, he says, from the “role of disengaged thinking in the most prestigious and impressive epistemic activity of modern civilization.” This disengaged way of thinking becomes a self buffered from the rest of the world where one lives isolated, in the mind, apart from the bodily existence of the world. Taylor suggests that this is an illegitimate explanation of how the self actually functions in the world. He notes, however, that it remains one of the strong cultural trends of modernity.

In the FB age where we can "hide" people we've friended because we're damn sick and tired of their clear misguided updates and don't want to hear from them anymore or where we can de-friend them completely without them even knowing it. Sure social media gives us access to a plethora of information and more importantly people we can connect with, but how does it help us to converse better with one another? Does it? More often, than not, I'm thinking we find those areas of interest that are more like us than different from us. And when we do find those differences from ourselves we just peer in, as if a scientist doing exploratory research on some distant land that we would never choose to be a part. Sure we can connect with like minded people, but is it having an affect of helping us to engage with difference better or is it merely perpetuating the way we'd rather just live a buffered, withdrawn and disengaged existence, without in any real way, engaging the other as other.

I believe the other is irreducibly other which means that there is more difference than sameness and this is scary as hell when we come to realize this. what do you all think? is there ever a time when social media can lead to healthy, healing and constructive conversation? where and when has it happened? maybe you all can help me think about this.

1 comment:

Neal said...

Great post Dave.

My comment was so long I decided to turn it into it's own post.